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This weekend Penn rowing will join nearly ten thousand rowers for a clash of oars at the 50th annual Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston.

Attracting rowers from all over the United States and around the world, the Head of the Charles is considered the premier head race-style regatta in the United States.

After a successful Navy Day Regatta last weekend, where Penn rowing came out on top in nine out of 13 races, the Quakers are hoping to continue a promising trend as they head towards the traditional spring season.

After competing with each other at last weekend’s regatta, Penn and Navy will join the rest of the Ivy League this weekend, as well as a diverse group of crews including the California Berkeley from the West Coast as well as Oxford and Cambridge hailing from the other end of the Atlantic.

“The Head of the Charles is the biggie,” men's heavyweight coach Greg Myhr, referring chiefly to the scale of the event.

Despite the impressive list of participants, the weekend’s regatta is mainly seen as an opportunity to prepare for the main season in the spring.

“We are trying to get an assessment of where we are,” men's lightweight coach Colin Farrell said. “That then will send us into the winter training."

The Head of the Charles is the second of three major fall regattas — the Navy Day Regatta, the Head of the Charles, and the Princeton Chase — occurring on three subsequent weekends in October.

Unlike last weekend at the Navy Day Regatta, where all of Penn rowing competed, only a handful of rowers will have the opportunity to race this weekend.

“We only get to bring an eight — that’s all we’ve got,” said Myhr, who has been faced with assembling only eight rowers to don the Red and the Blue for the heavyweights this weekend.

“We’ll be racing one lightweight eight and two lightweight fours,” said Farrell, who also emphasized the challenge of having three events in rapid succession in October. “You have to work against the clock.”

Mike Lane, head coach for the women, mentioned the challenge of racing on the Charles.

“We don’t get to practice on the course,” he said. “It’s definitely a coxswain’s race.”

Despite this, Lane is confident about the women’s chances, who will be racing with one boat each in the four and eight races.

Unlike in the regular spring season, the fall season events feature head races, which are different from the side-by-side racing typically associated with rowing.

“Head racing is like a time trial,” Myhr explained. “It’s a longer race where boats in every category start every ten seconds; so you’re essentially racing the clock.”

He accentuated the specific challenges of this type of racing.

“There’s a lot of steering, passing and sometimes collisions — which gets interesting,” he added.

While the races this weekend will fill a largely preparatory role, fans of Penn rowing still have all the reason in the world to get excited as a confident Penn will test itself against other top crews, including the perennial Ivy League rivals.

“They are all very fast, very well-funded and very well-coached,” Myhr said. “Harvard is always one of the tops teams, Yale is charging great guns and Princeton is incredibly fast.”

Myhr hopes for the heavyweights to place in the upper-half among the eight Ivy League schools, at least. He remains optimistic.

“I won’t be happy until we win.”

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